In our cold northern climate, getting fresh, local produce in the winter can be a challenge, especially in the downtown area. The pandemic has increased restrictions and forced many local organizations and farmers to shift their market seasons and programming.
The West Broadway Farmers’ Market was cancelled this summer. The West Broadway Community Organization largely focused their efforts on online workshops and the pandemic-friendly Good Food Box program, an affordable weekly fruit and vegetable package available by pre-order. The Downtown Winnipeg Farmers’ Market had a late start and will continue in its Cityplace location this winter.
The St. Norbert Farmers’ Market offers a reduced number of vendors all winter long, and the Wolseley Farmers’ Market at Robert A. Steen Community Centre continues until the end of October, around the same time that most Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares end.
CSAs are a subscription-based model of purchasing produce directly from farmers. Customers pay a larger fee upfront for a weekly portion of vegetables over a particular season.
Jonathan’s Farm is one of the few market farms to offer a winter CSA in Winnipeg. Running from November to February, their winter CSA supplies people with vegetables like squash, beans, potatoes, carrots, onions and celeriac from their summer harvest.
“You can’t grow anything in the winter, so it is a matter of storing it,” Jonathan Stevens, owner of Jonathan’s Farm, says. In the first two weeks of October, Jonathan’s Farm will harvest their winter CSA crops. “We spend the week washing, bagging and putting it in the cooler. On pickup days, we haul it out.”
Organic Planet Worker Co-op, an organic grocery store co-operative, is another source of fresh veggies in the summer. The collective also struggles to stock local produce in the winter.
“We stock local up until a certain point when farmers run out,” Elizabeth McMechan, member of the Organic Planet co-op, says. “We try to get as much local produce as we can, as long as we can. From there we get stuff from B.C., and then we go further south based on necessity from Oregon, California and Mexico, as a last resort, because it has to travel so far, so it doesn’t maintain its freshness as well.”
Buying local has several benefits. Not only is a purchase of local produce an investment in local farmers, but it is also an investment in the local economy. Transporting food across long distances has adverse effects on the food and the environment. Produce can lose nutrients over time, and pollutants are released into the atmosphere from vehicles used to transport food.
“We don’t want things to have to travel further than necessary. The nice thing about local produce is that we build a relationship with the farmers that come in here,” McMechan says. “We know them by their names, and we support them by going to markets. We are able to support local, but (also) reduce our carbon footprint.”
To sign up for a winter CSA with Jonathan’s Farm, go to jonathansfarm.com. Organic Planet Co-op’s grocery and deli is at 877 Westminster Ave. You can also order a Good Food Box from westbroadway.mb.ca.
Published in Volume 75, Number 06 of The Uniter (October 22, 2020)